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Roadless Rule Upheld By 10th Circuit

Posted by Jonathan Guzzo at Oct 24, 2011 03:20 PM |

The Roadless Area Conservation Policy, a Clinton-era rule that set 58.5 million acres nationwide (more than 2 million in Washington) aside from road-building, was upheld by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday.

In a victory for wildlands, the Roadless Area Conservation Policy, a Clinton-era rule that set 58.5 million acres nationwide (more than 2 million in Washington) aside from road-building, was upheld by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday. Since its introduction, WTA has been a supporter of the policy, and the 10th Circuit's decision represents a major win for hikers who cherish the areas and the trails that access them.

Known as the Roadless Rule, the policy has been under attack since its inception in 2000, caught up in a seemingly endless round of suits and countersuits, rulings and comment processes. All the while, the rule has been in effect, but challenged from multiple points. This lawsuit, brought by the State of Wyoming, was found without merit by the appeals court.

In Washington State, the Roadless Rule preserves lands adjacent to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in the Teanaway area, Juniper Ridge in the Dark Divide Roadless Area, and Mount Dickerman in the Boulder River Roadless Area, among many others.

The crux of Wyoming's suit was that the rule created de facto wilderness by banning road building, which usurped the power of Congress, the body charged with drafting and passing wilderness bills. In a unanimous decision, a three judge panel of the 10th Circuit found that the Roadless Rule allows for motorized recreation and mining and mineral development, activities prohibited in wilderness, making Wyoming's argument baseless.

Wyoming has the option of either taking the case to the Supreme Court or asking the full 10th Circuit to review the three-judge ruling. Meanwhile, HR 1581, sponsored by Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), would release all roadless areas that are not recommended by the Forest Service for wilderness designation to road building and other extractive uses. That would affect the vast majority of roadless acres nationwide, including every one of Washington's 2 million.

So far, HR 1581 has been heard in House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands and subsequently referred to the Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy and Forestry. We'll keep you updated on HR 1581 as the bill moves forward.

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